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GTD for Faculty-Ideas?

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  • GTD for Faculty-Ideas?

    I have been sharing the GTD ideas with members of faculty at the University I work at.
    A common complaint I get is that the longer-term writing and/or research projects they have cannot be broken down to short, simple next actions.
    Their challenge is that it often takes 30 minutes-1 hour just to get their head back into a place that their writing can flow. That means that many of their next actions boil down to "Spend Three Hours writing". A the frustration they have is that they have a difficult time finding a 3 hour block to write.
    Any thoughts/advice

  • #2
    Just a quick suggestion to think about -- maybe when defining the very next action on "Finish article/paper/book re XX" project you and your mates should get more granular or specific about what really is going to happen next. "Spend time" is not specific enough that I could actually see myself doing a physical act (this seems to me more in the project definition mode vs. next action). "Doodle on a pad of paper until useful thoughts appear" is something I can see me doing and when I see something that granular on my next actions list I'd be more likely to take a crack at it. Just keep asking why or what's next to see if you are at the very next action (one you can see happening) and I think it would work better for you.

    Hope this helps.


    • #3
      Re previous post - an addition

      About the not having 3 hours to get (really) it rolling: this is a common problem that, in my judgment, can only be overcome by learning to work using the swiss cheese method where you keep drilling holes in the project as best you can. The GTD method of a well defined outcome and next action, and working it forward with doing, defining next the action & bookmarking where you left off, and repeating is the only way I've found to get anything done.

      What you have described is a difficult item to contend with.


      • #4

        Another way to look at this is that it is what it is. If it takes 3-4 hours to get into the the writing mindset and get it done then it takes 3-4 hours. They will simply need to find the time by renegotiating other projects or renegotiate the writing project itself. No magic bullets here I'm afraid... Only 24 hours in the day.


        • #5
          GTD for Faculty

          I am not a faculty member but I do have to write long complicated documents that require research and much thought and revision. The only way I can do it is to schedule two hour blocks of time. It can be done. Its just a scheduled appointment that I make at the time of the weekly review. I do block specific hours for this that my secretary schedules around. Sometimes it doesnt work but we reschedule. I have also found that if before I stop writing I take 15-20 minutes to plan where I am going at the next session and write it down as specifically as possible I dont need 30 minutes to get my head together when I start next time.
          As a recovering multi-tasker, I am a firm believer in the benefits of single minded concentration.It's hard to get back into the habit of long periods of concentration without thinking about the other things you have to do. this is where GTD is very helpful but sometimes the mind still needs to be cleared . If I am going into one of my blocks of time I sometimes either get up and walk around the block or take a short break with a breathing exercise to make a break between multi tasking, public things and the concentration.

          I have been reading a book that I really like. Its called the Power of Full Engagement-Managing Energy, Not Time, is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal by Loer and Schwartz. It geared more toward business but they also coach teachers, clergy, lawyers and medical students. Its applicable to anyone. These guys started out as coaches for high performance atheletes and as they started to work with non athletes they discovered that the performance demands that most people face in everyday work enviorments dwarf those of any professional athletes they have trained. They said that athletes spend about 90% of their time training for performing 10% of the time.They also have an off season. The rest of us spend no time training and are exepcted to perform at peak for 8-12 hours a day. As David would say its NOT "Na Na noo noo" and I am finding it very useful as an adjunct to GTD.


          • #6
            Re: GTD for Faculty-Ideas?

            As a physics professor at a midwestern university, and I have a few thoughts for you:

            Large blocks of free time are a scarce commodity, so writing typically has to get done in smaller blocks.

            Writing is not really just sitting down and writing, it includes:

            developing an outline
            jotting down key ideas
            on-line research
            writing rough drafts
            polishing sentences and paragraphs

            Not knowing where you are in the process means starting from scratch every time you come back to a project. I am constantly re-grouping on research projects, for which the final product is one or more papers. You have to know what the absolute next action is, and get small victories regularly.

            When I am writing a paper with a grad student or postdoc, we often write together. This buddy system has many benefits. Typically, I cannot sustain focus for more that an hour and a half in these sessions.

            Hope this helps.


            • #7
              Thanks to you all for some very useful insights!